Sunday, May 18, 2014

Distilling (not distilling), New Perfume

My 'new' vintage scientific hot plate isn't working like it's supposed to. I was so excited to get started distilling again, spending the week from order date to date of receipt of the hot plate in distillation contemplation. I bought seaweed and carefully chopped it up and soaked it in distilled water to prepare it, set up the new glass unit, and then ... nothing. The hot plate doesn't regulate its heat properly. I tried to calibrate it because there are no numbers or temperature settings on it, and it was all over the place. I set the knob where I felt was the halfway point between 'off' and the 'lava beds of hell', and I got readings from 150 F to 450 F and everywhere in between.

I guess I just bought myself a very ugly electric incense heater.

It's been a few days since the launch (and I say that tongue in cheek) of my latest perfume creation, Modhlim. It is touted as a dark floral, but as it progresses -- or maybe because of hormones or seasonal allergies or something -- I'm getting big hits of tulsi in the opening. It's nice. Sparkly. It's got loads of jasmin sambac, a material I love using but don't use to this extent. This perfume is lovely now, but I think in a year or so it will be absolutely stunningly fabulous.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Mourning Incense

The incense I created recently to help myself through the mourning process is nearly done. If you read this blog, you're aware of a lot of the crazy things that have been happening around me, things that are often difficult to get through without a little perfume therapy -- at least for me, anyway. I didn't use a traditional kyphi base of dried fruit, but I did use everything else -- the wine, the honey, the resins, a few herbs, and a pinch of jasmin sambac to help with depression. I used a lot of resins, mostly frankincense and myrrh with a bit of fresh elemi resin, and a handful of lovely white fir resin. It's really quite amazing. I soaked oak moss, sandalwood chips, and powdered orris in the dregs of a bottle of Shiraz -- the cloudy bit at the bottom of the bottle where all the dusky sediments are -- and hand mortared the frankincense, myrrh, and fir resins. The elemi resin I have from White Witch Natural Beauty Products is amazing, like sticky aromatic clay. I really had to work that into the herbs and then let it melt in the sun so it would disperse properly. When I make incense, I rarely do the same thing twice. I learn from my mistakes and create new techniques to avoid those mistakes, all the while making new mistakes from which I learn and that I remedy in the next round. This is how I learned that sweating out the water portion of wine (instead of draining it out) intensifies the scent of the herbs and the wine, and helps to meld the elements more cohesively. Since there is a much higher concentration of resins to herbs in this formulary, I decided to add the herb/elemi resin/wine mixture into the boiled honey/resins mixture toward the end of the boiling. After that I poured it all out onto parchment and allowed it to cool, then added a layer of jasmine sambac concrete, like sweet, floral, heady jam, onto the cooled resin, and then folded it in upon it self. Today I will knead the mass, and continue to do so until the incense is well blended and nearly dry. Boiling the honey and resins together reminds me so much of making toffee, to the point that some of the same hallmarks of 'done' with toffee are mirrored in the boiling honey and resins. The process is really quite amazing, and goes a very long way to alleviate the feelings of grief and sadness that have recently plagued me. My hope is that my clientele find the same relief when they burn this special incense.

The bottom line for me in creating these kyphis and kyphi-like incenses is to let the fragrant raw materials speak for themselves. I don't try too hard to manipulate them because they are so very willing to go where my vision is set. I suppose this is a testament to becoming familiar and being familiar with the materials.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Do What You Love

And don't think about what you hate. It's a difficult rule to follow for some of us. The doing what I love part I have down pat, it's the not thinking about what I hate, or more precisely, what aggravates me to the point of hair pulling, that I don't quite have a handle on.

I received some new toys yesterday, more geek perfumer goodies from my favorite geek shop.

Loads of glass droppers
Adorable apothecary style 100 ml flacons
Droppers. Never underestimate the value of a good glass dropper. The trick to keeping your droppers 'healthy' and maintaining the rubberiness of the rubber bulb is to wash them right after they are used. Right after. Don't wait a few hours or a few days, or, heaven forbid, a month, wash them right away. Rinse them in alcohol, then give them a nice warm bubbly bath and clean all their little curves and hollows with a soapy pipe cleaner. Rinse well, and air dry completely before reattaching the two parts. Oh, and try not to draw up raw materials, alcohol, perfume, or whatever, all the way into the bulby part.

These sweet 100 ml apothecary style bottles are for tinctures and dilutions. Yeah, I know, they have corks, and though I love the aesthetic of corked bottles, they don't play nicely with alcohol-based anything. I have a few glass stoppers without bottles lying about, so I may go through them to see which will fit these bottles. In the meantime, I suffer the plague of the cork.
Nifty 500 ml glass distillation unit

Rainbow of tins for storing kyphi
I have no idea why there's a random "N" up there next to the distillation photo. Just ignore it. Well, try anyway. Okay, so I have a copper distillation unit buried somewhere in the boxes left in the garage, but I've been wanting a glass unit for a long, long time. Very fancy pants, isn't it? It's a small unit, 500 mls, and I'm planning to use it for things like the neighbor's rosa centifolia that they allow to wilt and fall to the ground. Small batches for lovely hydrosols of delicate floral whatnots.

The tins were a boon. Wasn't looking for them, but I was thinking of something colorful and jewel-like to house the finished kyphi. Until I can get the packaging I want (colored glass/cork) these will do nicely. In fact, I may change my mind about the glass, or add the glass as an option. These tins hold 14 grams of finished kyphi perfectly.

This is what I love. Creating these wonderful aromatic luxuries from natural raw materials, and presenting them in packages that look like gifts.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

I Am an Impatient Sort, and Happy May Day!

I am an impatient sort, and sometimes I don't follow my own rule for this, which is never put anything 'out there' until it's perfect. I work very hard on what I do, perfuming, soaping, incense making, writing, and especially with perfuming and writing I get hung up on when is the work ready for public consumption. I'm doing myself a great disservice behaving this way, so my May Day corn dolly wish for the year is to become patient to the degree of near pain when it comes to perfuming and writing. Especially with the perfume books, I get frustrated and angry when the formatting doesn't cooperate, or the transfer of formatting from my computer to the publishing format don't play nicely together. I've put out some poorly formatted books and I need to quit it. The content is good, if I say so myself, but the poor formatting makes it all look like sh*t, and diminishes the value of the whole piece of work. As for perfume, I get too attached to my work and I lack objectivity when it comes to being 'done' (what perfumer doesn't?), and again, I get frustrated and fall out of love with the current work if it doesn't seem to do what I want it to do, so I rush it and don't give it the care it deserves. Again, I have to stop doing this. As with all great and wonderful things, it's done when it is truly and well done.

Accord building, this is something I need to start practicing more, just for fun and not only when I'm building for a particular perfume. A friend of mine recently let me play with her accord box, accords she'd formulated years ago, all nicely labeled and gorgeous, in little mini bottles because who really needs to make a ton of something that might not work out, right? This is another reason I petition the Universe for patience -- I need to get back into the groove of building accords for fun, just to see what they'll do later in 'life', so I can figure out if they might be useful in something I'd like to put together. I learned the importance of accord building practice when I discovered the main themes of my perfumes Serj, Oshiba, and now with the new chon-like perfume I'm building in my head. All these ideas for perfume started with layering three or so raw materials and really loving how it all came together.

Perfume making and writing are work. And art . . . but mostly work.

May Day. I had such big celebration plans (no bonfire). Yummy fresh food, handmade pastries, a few hours spent building corn dollies to petition the Universe for something I don't have, but I don't know if I have the energy to do much cooking. Blue seems to be the color of this May Day for me. Year before last I petitioned the Universe to erase fear from my life, and it's worked out nicely. I can't remember if I made a corn dolly last year... This year I'm petitioning patience with my work, and a few other things; a multi-purpose corn dolly wish. Now, you might be wondering exactly what is a corn dolly, so I'll tell you. It's not necessarily made of corn, unless you have some old corn husks lying around, or a bag of tamale corn husks, which work great. Corn dollies can be made with plants that grow right near where you live, twigs from a tree in your yard, leaves from your rose garden, even flowers work. The basic idea is to build these dollies while working the intent of your wish into them as you wrap and wind and braid the bits of grass and twigs and flowers together. A small piece of cloth that acts as a shirt is used to hold it all together. You want to make your corn dolly look like a person, with a head, arms, and legs. You can weave long strands of grass into the doll's head for hair, or poke a few flowers in the 'head'. When you're done, dedicate your dolly to your intention, light a candle, light some incense, set your dolly in a safe place where you see it every day, and wait. By the following May Day, your corn dolly 'wish' will come true.


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